News you might have missed: Marriage equality wins big in court


Also: The governor of Pennsylvania wants to raise the state's minimum wage, and Michigan is helping businesses procure protective equipment.

This week, Minnesota invested tens of millions of dollars in renewable energy, Wisconsin voters will be able to vote safely by mail, and New York chose a winner in a contest to create a video encouraging everyone to wear a mask.

Read on to see what else you might have missed this week in the news.

Court upholds survivor benefits for same-sex couples

On Wednesday, Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ-focused civil rights organization, celebrated a federal court ruling that the Social Security Administration cannot deny survivor benefits to same-sex couples who were unconstitutionally prevented from being married.

The ruling by the United States District Court for the District of Arizona is a "tremendous victory for many surviving same-sex spouses nationwide who have been locked out of critical benefits because they were unlawfully barred from marriage for most of their relationships," said Peter Renn, counsel in Lambda Legal's western regional office, who is working on the case.

Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit on behalf of Michael Ely, an Arizona man who married his partner, James Taylor, as soon as Arizona's ban on same-sex marriage was struck down. Taylor died of cancer just six months after the marriage took place.

The Social Security Administration had denied Ely survivor benefits because he and Taylor had been married less than nine months.

"The court today recognized that, and affirmed that, in striking down the marriage bans, the Supreme Court made clear that same-sex couples should have access to all the protections of marriage and that the scourge of the decades-long discrimination should not be allowed to endure," said Karen Lowey, Lambda Legal senior counsel and seniors strategist.

Higher minimum wage part of Pennsylvania recovery plan

Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced on Tuesday that he will push to increase the state's minimum wage as part of a broad pandemic recovery effort.

Wolf is looking to increase the minimum wage in the state to $12 per hour, and later to $15 per hour.

Pennsylvania's current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and has not been raised in more than a decade. Wolf has called for the Republican-led Legislature to raise the minimum wage half a dozen times in the past.

Wisconsin voters will receive absentee ballot applications by mail

Voters in Wisconsin will be mailed an absentee ballot application for the November election, the state's election commission announced on Wednesday.

The decision affects nearly 3 million voters and will ensure they do not have to choose between their right to vote and their health during the pandemic.

Voters will receive an application by mail, fill it out, and return it, along with a copy of their photo ID, to receive a ballot. They will also receive information on how to request a ballot through the state's MyVote website.

Michigan will also mail voters absentee ballot applications, while California will mail every voter a ballot.

Michigan prioritizes safety as more businesses open

The state of Michigan has created an online portal to help local businesses ensure workers and customers are safe as businesses begin to reopen.

The platform, run through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation's Pure Michigan Business Connect program, allows businesses that need face masks, gloves, goggles, and other safety equipment to contact Michigan companies that can fill the demand.

The program will "help employers access the PPE they need to ensure their employees feel safe returning to work, while also supporting Michigan businesses that will be critical to economic recovery efforts," said Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

"We want to ensure we are opening up in a way that is safe, smart and does not undo the progress we have made in flattening the curve of COVID-19," Whitmer said.

Minnesota will invest $70 million in renewable energy

Minnesota Democratic Gov. Tim Walz signed 21 bills into law on Wednesday, including measures to invest $70 million in renewable energy, Walz's office announced.

One of the new laws allocates $20 million for what it calls a "solar rewards solar energy production incentive program" and $2.75 million to upgrade a hydroelectric project in Granite Falls, about 130 miles west of Minneapolis.

The legislation will "shore up our investment in renewable energy," Walz said in a statement, adding he was "proud to work with our legislative partners to get these bills across the finish line."

Crayola launches crayons for dozens of different skin tones

To celebrate United Nations World Day for Cultural Diversity, Crayola announced the release of 24 new crayons so children across the globe can "accurately color themselves into the world."

"Crayola hopes our new Colors of the World crayons will increase representation and foster a greater sense of belonging and acceptance," Rich Wuerthele, the company's CEO, said in a statement.

The new colors will have labels in English, Spanish, and French, and will range from "Extra Light Almond" to "Deepest Almond."

Watch: Contest-winning video encourages New York residents to wear a mask

On Tuesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that "We Heart New York," a video made by the New York creative production company Bunny Lake Films, had won a statewide contest to create a 30-second ad to encourage New Yorkers to wear masks during the coronavirus pandemic.

The winning ad, along with the runner-up, will run as public service announcements.

"We launched the Wear A Mask New York contest to help spread the word about the importance of wearing a mask, and frankly this contest generated much more energy and excitement than I even anticipated," Cuomo said in a statement.